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Revised Federal guidelines say that prosecutors should hold back from pursuing simple charges of drug possession and reserve action for the "most serious manifestations of the offence." The Public Prosecution Service of Canada has changed its approach to simple possession offences falling under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA).
The new policy says that "alternatives to prosecution should be considered unless they are inadequate to address the concerns related to the conduct."
The revised guidelines consider serious manifestations of the offence that justify "a criminal prosecution response" to include:
- Conduct that poses a risk to the safety or well-being of children or young persons, including simple possession:
- Committed in the vicinity of places frequented by children or young persons;
- Committed by a person who is in a position of trust or statutory authority in respect
of children or young persons;
- Conduct that puts at risk the health or safety of others, including simple possession associated with impairment from substance use while preparing to drive, being responsible for supervision of a person driving, or driving a motor vehicle, operating machinery, possession of a weapon, or performing an activity posing a risk to public health or safety;
- Conduct that poses a heightened risk to a community’s efforts to address consumption of controlled substances in accordance with its own community approaches. This concern is often present in relation to isolated or remote communities;
- Conduct where there is a factually grounded basis to associate it with another offence contrary to the CDSA, including cultivation, production, harvesting, trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking, obtaining a prescription substance for the purpose of trafficking or the use of others, or importation of a controlled substance (for commercial gain) or another Criminal Code offence;
- Conduct in breach of the rules of a regulated setting such as a custodial facility, jail or penitentiary;
- Conduct committed by a peace officer or public officer, where it is relevant to the discharge of their duties.
This comes a little over a month after the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police called for the decriminalization of personal illicit drug possession. Chief Constable Adam Palmer, the CACP President provided insight into the association’s reasoning.
"Canada continues to grapple with the Fentanyl crisis and a poisoned drug supply that has devastated our communities and taken thousands of lives," said Palmer. "We recommend that enforcement for possession give way to an integrated health-focussed approach that requires partnerships between police, healthcare and all levels of government."
Part 5.13 of the PPSC act concludes that there will be certain "regional flexibility" provided in order to approach different severities of the issue.